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The Good Graces of Inbee Park

St. Andrews, Scotland | Inbee Park, the world No. 1 and the talk of the town, was up at dawn on the first morning of the Ricoh British Women’s championship at St Andrews. She was off the tee at 7.03 a.m. and, with the help of a couple of lengthy putts, out in 31 against the par of 36.
It was precisely what the crowd wanted. Having recently been hearing rather more about issues surrounding the women’s game than the women’s golf, they were finally witnessing some play – and some great play at that.
Inbee, who was out to win a fourth successive major, followed up with a three at the par-4 10th to move to a scintillating 6-under par. She then notched a couple
of quiet pars as spectators waited with baited breath for a fresh rush of birdies. What they got were two bogeys and a
double-bogey, with the latter Inbee’s first of the year in a major context.
Having knocked her second into the greenside bunker at the 16th, she had played out sideways and taken three putts from 35 feet.
Yet her acceptance of what was, in her book, a more than minor golfing mishap, was no less riveting than her earlier sub- par play. She showed not so much as a hint of irritation, with the only slumped shoulders belonging to her hundreds of new-found fans.
The next thing to impress was how, in the wake of her anticlimactic 69, she stayed around for a good hour, speaking to the media and the TV people and signing autographs. Would any of the leading men
have done that – and done it again after a second-round 73?
There is more to Park than her great golfing stats, with no shortage of choice little insights coming from those who know her well. After her win in Thailand earlier this year, she had by all accounts left a box of chocolates in all of her sister professionals’ lockers.
Again, there was a cute tale concerning how she had once admitted to Mike Whan, the CEO of the LPGA Tour, that she was scared of the dark.
“You’re never going to be in the dark,” he replied. “The way you play, you’re going to be living in a barrage of flashing cam- eras for the rest of your days.”
Fun and sun dominated last week’s early proceedings. The waterproofs were peeled off early and there was Michelle Wie, a vision in skin-tight black, with black hat and red lipstick. She looked amazing.
The crowds were still digesting her appearance when the Stanford graduate took up her putting stance on the first green, leaning over the ball at that 90 degree angle. The method should be banned at once. Less because of any concerns for the integrity of the game than for safety reasons. Heaven knows how many folk have never straightened up after giving the method a try.
Wie was playing with Jessica Korda and England’s Charley Hull the first two days. Korda was safely aboard the US Solheim Cup side but Wie and Hull, in a situation that made for any amount of outside-the- ropes debate, were looking for wild cards from their respective captains.
Wie had scores of 74 and 70 to go through to the weekend while Hull missed the cut with 76 and a 72. You would have thought that 4-over tally spelt the end of the teenager’s chances but for the fact that captain Lotta Neumann still followed four of her holes on Friday.
St Andrews asks questions all its own and there was plenty of entertainment attached to competitors hitting from Granny Clark’s Wynd at the 18th.
When Gillian Kirkwood, a former LGU President and a rules official, was called upon to confirm that Jiyai Shin would have to play the ball as it lay, Shin thanked her nicely and never questioned the decision. Afterwards. Kirkwood noted that all four of the girls who had landed on the road during her watch had reacted similarly. “It’s easier,” she said, “to be a bearer of bad news to the women than the men.”
Meanwhile, Judy Murray, mother of the Wimbledon champion, came to the Ricoh to watch Scotland’s Catriona Matthew and to take up the offer of a lesson. The lesson had been suggested after she pulled out of the pro-am at the last minute on the grounds that she could not play golf.


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